COVID-19 Delta variant concerns grow as data shows stagnant vaccination rate in Bexar County

Vaccination rate could be crucial to slowing new COVID-19 Delta variant, experts say

An interactive map shows vaccination rates in San Antonio. (City of San Antonio, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – COVID-19 vaccines are more available than they’ve ever been, but with a plateauing vaccination rate in Bexar County, experts are concerned about the potential havoc the Delta variant could cause.

The variant, which has proven to be much more transmissible than other variants, now makes up 90% of cases in the United Kingdom.

Currently, the variant accounts for more than 20% of new infections in the country, according to Metro Health officials. Though there are no confirmed lab reports of the variant in Bexar County, officials say “it is safe to assume that this strain is likely to be circulating in our community.”

Fully vaccinated people still have strong immunity against the virus, but experts worry if vaccination rates remain stagnant, the spread of the variant could have severe consequences.

The City of San Antonio has been collecting data on vaccination rates throughout Bexar County to get a sense of how many residents have been getting vaccinated.

The data shows that 56.3% of Bexar County residents older than 16 are fully vaccinated — nearly 874,000 people. It also shows the rate of vaccination slowing in the county.

Another interactive map created by the city breaks down COVID-19 vaccination percentages by ZIP code.

In separate tabs, the map shows population percentages for people who are partially vaccinated and people who are fully vaccinated.

The map shows stronger fully vaccinated rates in North Side ZIP codes, where the rates were above 50%. Throughout the rest of the county, few other ZIP codes have reached 50%.

Nearly 70% of residents have received at least one dose, showing a major disparity between the partially vaccinated and the fully vaccinated.

More than 100,000 Bexar County residents have not returned for their second doses, Metro Health officials said last week.

“Effectiveness with just one dose of vaccine is as low as 33% in one study in the U.K. just last month,” said Dr. Junda Woo, Metro Health medical director and local health authority for San Antonio and Bexar County, said in a press release.

The Delta variant

Without higher vaccination rates, the spread of the Delta variant could potentially lead to an uptick in new infections, said Dr. Jason Bowling, director of Hospital Epidemiology at University Health. The more it spreads, the greater the chances of other consequences, like stronger mutations.

“The more cases of COVID infections we have in general, the more mutations there are,” Bowling said. “Now, most of those mutations don’t do anything, but then periodically you have one like this Delta variant that comes out that’s more transmissible.”

More mutations could also lead to reduced effectiveness of current COVID-19 vaccines.

“(COVID-19 infections) puts pressure on the immune systems of people that are vaccinated and increases the chance of having breakthrough infections,” Bowling said. “And you’d hate for all this hard work that’s been done, with everybody going through the lockdowns ... We need people that are unvaccinated to get vaccinated for the good of all of San Antonio.”

One group of residents in particular show lower rates of vaccinations — younger people between the ages of 18 to 29, Bowling said.

“Even if they’re not as worried about themselves, they should think about their family, friends and loved ones,” he said.

You can find more information on how to get a COVID-19 vaccine here.

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